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SaaStr 2020: Our top three takeaways

This year's SaaStr Annual was held virtually - but still managed to have a ton of useful insights and tips for SaaS businesses. These are our top three.
Erik Molin
By Erik Molin on September 17, 2020

SaaStr recently held their annual event with one major difference to previous years - the entire thing was held online. Due to current limitations we're all facing due to COVID-19, the largest SaaS conference in the world had to adapt and pivot.

Those two verbs became common themes amongst the many enlightening talks and breakout sessions from the industry's leading talking heads, and through the two days of the conference, we at Younium came out with three key takeaways:

1. All businesses can be adaptive

This should come as no surprise, but this year, SaaS companies of all sizes, all expertise, and all audiences had to adapt. The good news is, we were in this together. Adapting to a "new normal" actually meant that customers were being taken care of like never before, and we should continue to find ways to retain loyalists, strengthen existing relationships, and reduce churn, while putting new sales on the backburner.

We found out that actually, 75% of SaaS companies experienced limited impact from COVID-19. Thankfully, most of us are in positions that are conducive to helping those who are now working remotely, or with teams who need to be extra efficient and productive.

We came away from the SaaStr talks with a few pieces of practical advice for continued growth through 2020 and beyond. These are just some examples for how SaaS companies can adapt in these times:

  • Freemium – try before buy - If your business model doesn't already have a freemium model, now may be the time to implement one. Giving potential customers reassurance before they make major software investments during a time of financial uncertainty can prove to have great results. Freemium or Trial periods can be a very strong sales funnel activity populating your pipeline with more Sales Qualified Leads.
  • Localize first, expand outside your region later - Stick with what you know - for now. It's much easier to get the targeting right and build trust, than by trying to expand into further markets just because they seem to be faring better than yours.
  • Self-service encouragement - here is where more content such as guided video demos can be of benefit. Self-service can feel like less pressure to prospects, and can be a method where when done correctly, you can capture interest and build relationships even before a purchase is made.
  • User training via product champions - Ensuring that customers know how to best utilize your tools ensures they spend more time using it, reduce frustrations, and quickly see value. You can leverage product champions to help to reduce your internal strain.

2. Product teams need to avoid common mistakes

While your product team is not generally considered "customer-facing" you should think about changing that. When building new features or encouraging better end-user adoption of improved features, do not make assumptions. According to Shawna Wolverton, Executive Vice President of Product at Zendesk, "you can’t understand your customer if you think you already do," and the biggest point to remember is that "we are NOT the customer." In order to get it right, we must get feedback directly from the source.

But, there is a caveat: "we're talking to our friends too much." When we speak to customers and those in our immediate networks who are too similar to us, we can miss out on a lot of insights to build something that is appropriate for the bigger, wider world. Remember that a diverse set of viewpoints makes products better.

The mistakes that product teams can make result in the inability to know when to let go. We know that developers and engineers take pride in the things they build, but now, more than ever, it is crucial to know when to stop pursuing a path that is not valuable to customers, just because those on the inside think it's the best thing ever.

3. Optimize what you already have and look for partners

There's no need to reinvent the wheel in 2020, the better course of action is to look at your SaaS pricing and sales strategies and just simply make them better. Why reinvent what's already built by someone else if you can leverage integrations and partnerships? It can be one of the most important rules to follow and the SaaS industry in general is good at re-using features and making partnerships.

According to Andrew Lindsay, Senior VP, Corporate Development and Business Development at HubSpot, it's a great time to grow better with strategic partnerships emphasizing that in these cases 1+1=3. When you can leverage your network, existing customers, and channel sales, you can grow exponentially faster.

They recommend following four steps:

      1. Confirm rationale for partnering
      2. Engage the internal infrastructure
      3. Identify the opportunity
      4. Build relationships, show value and avoid “no”

The main difference between traditional sales and strategic partnerships is that your sales focus as always is getting to ‘yes,’ but the partnerships focus is to avoid the ‘no.’ When you can show mutual benefits, clearly outline the opportunities for both parties, you can be better positioned to leverage connections to grow in new ways.

As always, the SaaStr annual event was insightful, informative, and actionable. In true life imitates art fashion, the conference may have had to take place in a fairly unconventional way, but it underscored the need for SaaS businesses to be creative in how we approach our strategies and be more adaptive, avoid mistakes, and optimize relationships for continued growth.

Learn more about how SaaS businesses can continue to succeed even in trying times by accessing our 5-part series:

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Published by Erik Molin September 17, 2020
Erik Molin

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